For the Man in the Museum, by David J. Bauman

My friend Bill’s kayak where the two branches of the Susquehanna meet, between Northumberland and Sunbury, PA.

For the details of why I am posting this here, you can review the last post.

Let’s keep this simple. I’m sharing a couple of poems of mine that were published three years ago by Word Fountain, the Literary Magazine of the Osterhout Free Library. At that time I had no idea that I would someday be managing a small branch of the Osterhout, let alone become the editor-in-chief of this magazine, or any magazine for that matter.

So here’s one that is a response to a Billy Collins poem, even though his poem wasn’t really what I thought it was at first. I explain that in the video. When I met Billy Collins, the same year this video was recorded, it was at King’s College, just about a block from the main Osterhout branch, more than an hour from where I was living at the time.  I asked him to sign next to his poem, and explained why.

Billy Collins signs his poem for me, right befoe I crack him up.
Billy Collins signs his poem for me, right before I crack him up.

He soberly asked, “Have you ever been kayaking on the Susquehanna?”

I replied, “Yes–”

He interrupted, “Then it doesn’t count.”

Simultaneously I said, “And it was a pleasure.” He laughed! I made Billy Collins laugh. That’s a nice memory. Maybe you’ll understand when you hear the reading. The text of the poem is below the video, and the original it was based on is here.

For the Man in the Museum
(After Billy Collins)

Not in July or any month
have I had the pleasure—if it is a pleasure—
Of fishing on the Susquehanna.
– Billy Collins

Kayaking on the Susquehanna—
now that’s a pleasure—in July or
any month lacking ice or floods.

I’m not sure I’ve ever seen a painting
of someone kayaking on the Susquehanna,
or any Pennsylvania waters for that matter.

My body feels it now, the ache that pushes
muscles as I row this rocking rhythm,
the meter of my stroke a little off—

two beats to port for each at starboard.
This fat little sit-on-top is made
for ocean waves, not upstream track.

But it’s the only kayak I own, so I row
on the Susquehanna, my backyard stream.
This far north of Harrisburg where West

meets North, the water’s deep, at least
when the dam is up. It’s inflatable, you know,
like the ego of poets who don’t know

about boats or bats that swoop past,
or fishing poles, or calloused hands,
curved paddles that dip and scoop,

and dribble Susquehanna into your lap.
It’s dusk; two ducks, and a loon flap past,
wings nearly tipping the waves. I tire and drift

the way we poets do when we’ve pushed
the pen too hard, and need to let
the stream find us again.

The slow current spins me facing downstream,
toward a low waxing moon, and even the rise
of countless mayflies doesn’t hide the glow

of pink sky above a bank of jumbled trees.
I imagine, as I glide toward shore,
a man in a museum, mind adrift,

gazing at a picture of a stranger
kayaking on the Susquehanna.
He senses something he has missed,

and thinks to write of his regret,
fleeting as a Pennsylvania rabbit,
briefly mourning a euphoria he’ll never know.

Shoulders sore, a setting sun, the moon
and first few stars hover over slow
roving water. Up ahead a bass jumps

for the day’s last fly. From far away I feel
his gaze. I pull my body up and out, and tug
the craft to ground, dripping the river behind me.


©2013 by David J. Bauman. First printed in Word Fountain, the Literary Magazine of the Osterhout Free Library, spring 2013, issue no. 8.

20 Comments Add yours

  1. Jnana Hodson says:

    A marvelous piece about a marvelous place and moment. I love works so rooted in both.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you! From you, that’s high praise, and much appreciated, Jnana.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. slpmartin says:

    Enjoyed your readings and your ability to maintain concentration as a boat zipped by in the background. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Just part of the scenery in that area. 🙂


  3. Brian Dean Powers says:

    Fine poems both, and well-read.

    (My first published poem was The Man in the Moon.)

    Liked by 2 people

  4. Christy Anna Beguins says:

    This is awesome David. Love the poem, but gotta say, making Collins laugh? Priceless. I haven’t seen much of his day-to-day personality, but he doesn’t strike me as someone who easily laughs. Seems more serious and uptight, smartassy. (Though I could be totally wrong.)

    (Congrats on getting listed with P&W and with Duotrope too. Yay!)

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks, Christy! Yeah, it felt like a rare, ungaurded moment for him. The script didn’t play out as he intended and someone was as quick with a punchiline as he. I felt I had a little warmth and respect there for a moment. I’m sure it passed. 😉
      And thanks for the congrats. I’m still waiting for a response from “New Pages.” And it strikes me as bizarre that the next open window for submissions is coming as soon as July 15th.


  5. intelliwench says:

    I love Billy Collins, I love your poem, and I love the Susquehanna!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’ve lived on both branches now! But probably my favorite was right there in the the middle. Maybe some day if that beautiful little library is looking for a director again . . .


  6. You inspired me to head down to the beach on Lake Michigan and break out my sea kayak. Thanks, David. I really enjoy your blog. P.S. I was conceived in Pennsylvania, and my parents are buried in Pittsburgh, so I feel a strong affinity for the Keystone State. Charley McKelvy

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yay! for kayaking, Charley! I’m honored to have helped lake-ify your day. And thanks for the Pennsylvania info. I guess I kind of am one of the commonwealth’s biggest WordPress fans outside of the tourism blogs. 🙂


  7. Jeremy Nathan Marks says:

    Reblogged this on DEMOI Independent Learning and commented:
    David is just a marvellous poet . . . and when you read or listen to him you know right away that you just LIKE him.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Holy cow, Jeremy, thank you for that!

      Liked by 1 person

    2. Jeremy Nathan Marks says:

      My pleasure and I mean it! 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  8. “The moon goes topless tonight”–that is a fantastic line to open a marvelous poem!

    I really enjoy the sense of LONGING that both “Moon” and “For the Man in the Museum” conjure. Such powerful tugging, in two very different poems. And what a wonderful encounter you had with Billy Collins! I remember really enjoying his readings at the Skagit River Poetry Festival (our West-Coast version of the Dodge Festival) back in 2000 or 2002, when he was Poet Laureate. He was such an engaging reader & speaker. What a delight that you got to exchange poetic river banter with him!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. So lovely to chat with you today, Jennifer! Thank you so much.

      Liked by 1 person

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